Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Worst of the Worst

I first read this story on child torture by American forces, and this one, last year when it was published in the free daily paper the Boston Metro. It was never reprinted or mentioned in any other American paper. Last summer I started to believe that I was going crazy because I could not believe that such a shocking and profoundly significant story could simply be ignored by the entire American media. I spoke in person about the story to Boston Globe columnist James Carroll, and never heard or read anything more from him. In fact, my confusion led to the following bizarre interchange between myself and Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby:

Dear Mr. Jacoby,
You have frequently written about how Saddam Hussein's infamous atrocities justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq, citing as most egregious the imprisonment and torture of children as an interrogation technique.  This is certainly the sickest thing I can think of in the modern world.  Now it appears it is being practiced by the United States, as reported in this Scottish newspaper and oddly, nowhere else.  You have consistently denounced any comparisons between the actions of the U.S. in Iraq and what Saddam did there.  Is this still a defensible position?  Surely there is no way to spin, no way to rationalize, this kind of atrocity.  If it's true, it's on par with the My Lai massacre and the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in WWII as examples of Americans acting no differently than the dictators we opposed.  Those who have sanctioned it should be removed from power as soon as possible, prosecuted, and sentenced to prison.  It is not a matter of partisanship but a matter of conscience for every American whose political will goes to support this war. wrote:

I'd like to know if the Red Cross or any other neutral organization has confirmed this
report. The media would certainly be all over it if it were deemed

Jeff Jacoby
Op-Ed columnist
The Boston Globe

Finally, in an attempt to save my sanity, I contacted the reporter Neil Mackay myself, and asked him if he would try to "prove" that he existed, a la Snuffalapagus. He told me that was well aware that the American media had frozen out anything it didn't want to hear, and that he had long since given up trying to "prove" anything. So there the story rested, until now. Recently I've read the rumors about the as yet unseen photos from Abu Ghraib, and apparently they will finally confirm the story that Neil Mackay broke over a year ago. And the media will pretend like this was the first time anyone ever heard of it.


Isabella di Pesto said...

James Carroll had a wonderful column in the Globe the other day. He's my favorite writer there.

I used to write to Jacoby regularly to point out his inaccuracies and contradictions. I don't anymore.

I'm sending this post around in an email to everyone in my address book.

But I'm not sure Americans can cope with this disaster as well as the one in the Gulf Coast.

Words fail me.

weazoe said...

I agree with you that James Carroll is a wonderful writer. I didn't mean to impugn him in my post because out of the entire media he has probably been the most reliable, insightful, and sanest throughout the Bush years. When I spoke to him, it was after a talk he had given in Cambridge, and I told him about the Mackay article. I think that he didn't take me seriously because he thought I was some kind of conspiracy theorist, some crazy guy who had shown up at this talk, which is funny because that's what I felt like. What had happened to me was that in finally losing all faith in the media, I had turned myself into an outsider. I was by definition discredited by the circular logic so perfectly stated by Jacoby in his email to me: what I was saying must not be true because the media had not reported it, and the media would not listen to me because I was discredited. Being trapped by this argument made me feel more and more like a conspiracy theorist, but it was the feeling that society was going insane and not me. This must be what it feels like, I concluded, to try and retain one's bearings in a society which is lurching towards tyranny - almost impossible.

ts said...

extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

don't you think jacoby has a point about neutral organizations such as the red cross?

weazoe said...

Did you actually read the articles? The Herald's investigation was based on an internal Unicef report, from which it quotes at length. In addition, the investigation cites first-hand reports from German and Iraqi journalists, and quotes human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Red Cross as saying that they are aware of and extremely concerned about the problem of child detainees. This is what the report says about the Red Cross:

Between January and May this year the Red Cross registered a total of 107 juveniles in detention during 19 visits to six coalition prisons. The aid organisation’s Rana Sidani said they had no complete information about the ages of those detained, or how they had been treated. The deteriorating security situation has prevented the Red Cross visiting all detention centres.

By the way at least one fact in this story has been widely reported on in the blogosphere and the mainstream media: the rape of a sixteen year old boy. You can read about it at cbsnews here and the washington post here